In thespec.com Sandi Doughton posts information on the first large-scale study to compare milk from organic and conventional dairies across the United States
…the researchers found significantly higher levels of heart-healthy fatty acids in organic milk. The reason is that organically raised cows eat more grass and less corn and other grain-based feed than their conventional counterparts, said lead author Charles Benbrook, of the university’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Previous studies have suggested that some organic fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of antioxidant chemicals compared with conventional produce. But most major reviews of all the evidence have found little nutritional distinction between organic and conventional foods. Milk has been the exception, with a few previous studies — particularly in Europe — noting differences in fat composition. The Washington University study, which was partly funded by the organic farm co-operative Organic Valley, is the biggest so far, analyzing nearly 400 samples of whole milk collected over an 18-month period. The results were published Monday in the journal PLoS ONE. On average, organic milk contained 25 per cent fewer of the omega-6 fatty acids common in fried foods, which have been implicated in inflammation, heart disease and diabetes. Organic milk was also 62 per cent richer in the omega-3 fatty acids believed to be at least partly responsible for the healthful effects of eating fish, beans and many vegetables. Both types of fatty acids are essential for health, but many nutrition experts believe the balance in the typical North American diet has become skewed because of the heavy use of omega-6-rich corn and soy oils in processed and fast foods. Most of us consume 10 to 15 times more omega-6 fatty acids than the healthier omega-3s, Benbrook said. Drinking whole milk — whether conventional or organic — is one way people can help bring those levels back into balance, Benbrook said, with the new results suggesting organic milk as the better choice.